San Remo: McRae’s in and title fight is on

Colin McRae's clearance to compete on this week's San Remo Rally means that the second part of the asphalt 'double-header' of Corsica and San Remo ensure the World Rally Championship remains fully alive

San Remo: McRae’s in and title fight is on

The Scot will contest the event just 20 days after the massive accident in Corsica that left him needing major reconstructive surgery to repair a double fracture of his cheek bone. He is nevertheless determined not only to compete on the Italian classic but also intends to win.

"I haven't given a moment's thought to giving up driving because of the accident," said the resilient Scot who still plans to lift the World title this season.

McRae and Ford team mate Carlos Sainz also have every intention of claiming the manufacturers' crown for the Blue Oval. After the Martini team's one-two in Cyprus early in September, McRae's co-driver Nicky Grist insisted: "It's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' Ford wins the title. Once that's out of the way, Colin and Carlos can go head to head for the drivers' title as well."

Standing in their way are Richard Burns and series leader Marcus Gronholm. Burns had a tough Corsica Rally but believes that Subaru learned enough to go into San Remo with renewed confidence. Providing Burns comes out of Italy with at least a solid points finish, the Englishman can head for Australia and the Rally GB in the knowledge that these are two of his strongest events.

Gronholm's asphalt performance in Corsica was a revelation and we should expect more of the same in Italy. However, Peugeot's stated aim is to prioritise the manufacturers' championship and that means Corsica winner Gilles Panizzi and team mate Francois Delecour will be expected to set the pace.

This could, of course, cost Gronholm the points he needs to maintain his championship lead in the long term and hand the advantage back to Burns, McRae and Sainz.

San Remo marks the last chance for four-time World Champion Tommi Makinen to stay in the title race. The Finn has won both of the last two San Remos but has struggled this year to turn solid drives into starring ones and remains in the hunt by the skin of his teeth. Unless he can find his so-far elusive form then the title race will be down to four drivers with three events to go.

SEAT, Skoda and Hyundai can expect to be little more than the supporting cast this weekend but a star drive from any of the three teams could stir up the title mix.

Three rounds to go, five points covering the top four, a compact route amid manic spectators still on a high from Ferrari's F1 title. It could only be San Remo...

Autosport.com will bring you stage-by-stage coverage of the all the San Remo action with live timing from Friday.

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